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When a Doctor Told Me I Was 'Too Difficult' to Treat


Many years ago I moved to a new state. Again, I was in an area where I didn’t know any doctors or anything about the mental health system. This meant I bounced from psychiatrist to psychiatrist, and psychologist to psychologist, until I found one of each that worked well with me.

I had been referred to a “great” psychiatrist by my primary care doctor and was quite optimistic about finding someone who could figure out medication for me. I sat down in this man’s office and told him my background, to which he said, “You’re too difficult for me to treat. I don’t deal with people who have such severe bipolar disorder.”

Well, that was disappointing.

I have what is called rapid cycling bipolar II. Yes, there are quite a few variations of bipolar disorder, and one of the reasons I went undiagnosed for so long is because my type is not the typical (if there is a typical bipolar) DSM-IV definition of bipolar I which, simplified, is fluctuating manic and depressed states, each of which lasting for at least seven days. Then there’s bipolar II, which also has episodes of fluctuating mood, but the up moods don’t reach full mania. In both of these forms, you could be in a depressed or manic state for months at a time.

Rapid cycling means you go from mania to depression at least four times a year, but it can be as frequent as a few times a week, or even a few times a day. I cycle at least a few times a day on average. Apparently this type of bipolar is more severe (I think all forms of bipolar are severe though), which is why the new doctor would not treat me. He did send me to a bipolar specialist, who was a good psychiatrist and made the additional diagnosis of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, which explained a lot.

But I get a bit tired of not being a “normal” case of anything. For instance, I’m also extremely sensitive to medication so even a small dosage will give me an extreme result.

And I’m eternally frustrated. I’m frustrated that there’s little information for atypical cases of mental illness, yet among all the people I have met with mental illness, many of us don’t perfectly fit the definitions found in the DSM-IV manual.

What’s sad is that our doctors are also in a bind. Even if they know of alternative treatments for atypical cases, sometimes they don’t suggest them. Because states are lacking mental health funding, often atypical treatment — meaning anything from medicines intended for a different illness, to food allergies, exercise and diet changes — has not been throughly scientifically tested.

Because of this, we have to be our own advocates.

My advice for people who have “atypical” cases of any mental illness is to never give up and keep looking for more information. Keep detailed records of your moods each day, or each hour if need be. Document exercise, sleep, diet, vitamins. Document how your body and mind feel and don’t believe it when a doctor tells you, “That would never happen.” Even if it seems like your illness is too severe or too complicated, keep looking for a doctor who will treat like the individual you are. Have faith that you know yourself, and find a doctor who has faith in you as well.

This post originally appeared on Rev. Katie Norris’ website.